Friday, 5 April 2013

DVD's From My Collection: Synecdoche, New York, Directed by Charlie Kaufman (2009)

Billed as a comedy (the smash-hit comedy of the year!) on my DVD, Synecdoche, New York is far from hilarious. It’s a cerebral fable/farce about ageing and death with surrealist touches; the sort of film you need to watch a couple of times in order to understand the labyrinthine plot. 

From allmovie by Rovi: "Kaufman has written about this kind of pain in his previous scripts; Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Adaptation each carry a heavy dose of existential angst. But the directors he's collaborated with have always found a way to make all that pain and struggle remain meaningful for the characters -- and therefore, for the audience as well. Working as a director for the first time, Kaufman tackles his main theme so unsparingly he provides barely a single concession to the viewer aside from casting brilliant actors like Hoffman, Emily Watson, Samantha Morton, and Catherine Keener. The result is a straight shot of pure undiluted Charlie Kaufman -- he makes Caden's angst and pain and helplessness and self-loathing feel agonizingly palpable from the first moment to the last. The film never condescends to Caden's emotions, and because of this, you get the sense that Kaufman is sharing his own turmoil -- and for his sake, let's hope that darkness is just a small fraction of his inner-self. In an idea that he's hinted at in his previous scripts, Synecdoche is very much about the dangers of the artist confusing art with life, and more so here than it's ever done in the past, this theme seems to insert Kaufman himself into the story. The film doesn't conjure up any of the characters as vividly as it does the idea of Kaufman, sitting behind the camera, orchestrating everything before you as a giant, tangled expression of how he feels.

The thought that Kaufman himself might be this conflicted about his own artistic gifts is disheartening -- especially because it seems like no other topic interests him as much. But by that same token, there will probably be a cult for this movie no matter what Kaufman does for the rest of his career. The emotional commitment from the director, and the film's weird, offbeat rhythms, guarantee that there will be a niche of fans who will respond strongly to it. But, looking forward for Kaufman, it doesn't seem possible he could have much more to say on the dangers of living in your own head. Synecdoche, New York is the kind of movie that only exceedingly talented filmmakers can get away with, and usually only once in a career. Charlie Kaufman is that talented, but he picked a dangerously early point to cash in his free pass."

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